Brit DVD Reviews: Music And Monarchy, with David Starkey by Acorn Media

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What do “I vow to thee, my country,” “Hope and Glory” (“Pomp and Circumstance” to Americans) and “Zadok the Priest” all have in common?  No, they weren’t the playlist for my wedding two years ago, although I will admit to stealing some selections from another wedding, occurring a few months earlier (thanks, Will and Kate!).  They are all famous anthems instantly recognizable and associated with the British Monarchy.  In the 4-part series, Music and Monarchy with David Starkey, over 6 centuries of music and its relation to the monarchy are discussed. Goosebumps abound as historian David Starkey takes a viewer down a musical memory lane.  There are four episodes, each about an hour in length:

1 CROWN AND CHOIR This episode discusses the close relationship between monarch, music, God and country. Starkey introduces us to the unique English “chant” style made famous during the reigns of Henry V, himself a composer, and Henry VIII (another King composer) and more. Goosebumpmoment? Henry VIII’s own compositions in his own handwriting! *squee*

2 REVOLUTIONS A change of religion brings about a change in how music ties monarch and country. Britain’s greatest native composer, Henry Purcell, is featured and I was a bit disappointed not to hear the piece I totally stole from Wills and Kate– “Trumpet Voluntary.”  This piece, to me, immediately conjures up royal imagery—it’s another goosebump moment!

3 GREAT BRITISH MUSIC The 18th Century: “God Save the King” is written, Handel is imported along with the Hanoverians, and the glory that is the British Empire begins. When I visited Handel’s memorial in Westminster Abbey, I didn’t realize the importance of his relationship with the first three Georges and the music we so closely identify as royal today. He was a bit of a rebel, too—but you have to watch the episode to find out why. Goosebump moment? Handel’s Messiah—the Hallelujah Chorus!

4 RE-INVENTIONS Music’s relationship to the monarchy changes as Victoria and Albert re-shape the monarchy.  Modern music is also discussed—especially Elgar’s greatest contribution to royal events, the piece that still makes me break out in hives (I played this song A LOT when I was in band). ”Hope and Glory” , heard at U.S. graduations the country over.   Goosebump moment? The choir singing “Vivat Regina!”

All in all, a GREAT DVD!  It’s simply gorgeous both audibly and visually.  A lot of the performances take place where they were meant to be heard: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, etc.   Highly, highly recommended.


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